How To Tell The Difference Between Transponder Keys And Mechanical Car Keys

by Daniel on

Here at Locksmith Pros USA, we offer the full range of locksmith services, because we want to be able to cater to each and every one of our customers, and we want to keep our customers happy at all times.

Although we handle all types of lock related services, we find ourselves dealing with auto-related work quite a bit. This is part of the reason why we excel at being automotive locksmiths in Los Angeles and dealing with car keys as well as all manner of auto lock related queries.

Many of the drivers we’ve helped in the past are often confused about the differences between a transponder key and a mechanical car key. This is a very common problem to have but fear not, you have a trusted locksmith willing and ready to provide the knowledge and services that you need.

In fact, there are times where we have to correct drivers who think they can simply copy their car keys without having them programmed properly. If you do not understand what that sentence implies, we guarantee that you will once you are done reading.

What are mechanical car keys?

In many ways, mechanical car keys should be viewed as the originator and the precursor to many of the car keys that drivers come across in their everyday lives. The mechanical car key is often described as a basic car key.

These car keys are basic because they are not much more than the regular, standard, machine cut car key that came with many older vehicle models. This car key has no additional parts that give it any special features, even though not all mechanical car keys are cut the same way.

They are built to work with the ignition and car door locks of their respective vehicles, but there isn’t much more to them than that. In comparison to transponder keys and car key fobs, basic car keys are very easy to duplicate and they have a minimal amount of security features that they can take advantage of.

What are transponder car keys?

Transponder keys are the natural follow up to the mechanical car key, and they were born out of the need to make vehicles more secure. In addition to this need, transponder keys often give drivers more control over their vehicles, even in subtle and overlooked ways. 

Transponder keys are a common fixture in modern vehicles, and this has been the case for the past 2 decades. These keys also feature a key blade, but instead of stopping there, there are additional features built into the car key that help set it ahead of basic car keys.

Transponder keys work by using transponder chips and RFID chips that are embedded into a section of the key. These chips are often housed in the bow/head of the key, which is why people often don’t notice that they’re there. 

Each of these chips is meant to communicate with a car’s onboard computer or into the car’s immobilizer. If the immobilizer does not receive the correct code from the transponder chip, the car will be inoperable. Each transponder key has its own unique code that works for the vehicle it is paired with.

What makes these car keys different?

Great question! There are a good number of things that set mechanical car keys and transponder keys apart from each other. When you know what makes these keys different, you will have an easier way of identifying them without any confusion. 

They are obviously going to have different car key replacement costs. But what about them justifies that difference in cost? Here is how they differ:

1. The ways they interact with your car

One of the main things that makes these keys different is the way they work in conjunction with your vehicle. Basic mechanical car keys are simply inserted into your car door lock or your ignition, wherein they interact with the car door lock cylinder or ignition cylinder to engage and execute a specific action from your car. 

A transponder key can work in the same way, except for the added feature that requires communication between the transponder chip and the car’s onboard computer. No action initiated by a transponder key can be completed without this exchange. This is why you need to program a transponder key.

2. The core components that make up the key

Another simple feature that sets these keys apart are the very things that make them. When you take a look at a basic mechanical car key, it is made up of only the key itself. Car key blades (especially the older ones) are often made out of brass, compound structures of aluminum and iron, or also nickel silver which is a much stronger option. 

Basic car keys only consist of this material as it makes up the entire key. However, transponder keys consist of the key coupled with the transponder chip. The transponder chip is placed on the bow of the key and covered by a protective plastic cover. 

3. The maintenance and additional services required

Keys are not immune to damage, so it goes without saying that from time to time they will require maintenance and additional work to be done to them. A key difference (no pun intended) between these two types of keys is how they can be maintained as well as the additional work they may require. 

For instance, transponder keys will require the additional service of transponder key programming if they ever have to be copied or duplicated. On the other hand, a basic car key is ready to be used as soon as it is made or duplicated. 

How can you tell the difference between these keys?

Once you are armed with the knowledge that has been dispensed above, it becomes easier to identify the keys that you have. If you are able to correctly identify your key, you will know how to troubleshoot any problems you face. 

The first thing you should look out for to show you what kind of key you have is the physical appearance of the key itself. More often than not, a basic car key will simply consist of a key blade, whereas the transponder key will come equipped with a protective covering to keep the transponder chip intact. 

In addition to this, you can pay attention to the way the car interacts with a vehicle to see if it is a transponder key or not. It is often the case that vehicles that work with transponder key systems have security lights that indicate that they are paired with transponder keys. 

If you are unsure of the kind of key you have, taking a simple look at your car’s security light will give you some insight.

If you are still not able to discern the kind of key you have, you shouldn’t feel defeated because an auto locksmith is still around to help you with the key you have. We are much more adept at dealing with these issues. 

So even though we will provide the information to help keep you informed, we have no issue helping you out ourselves. Give Locksmith Pros USA a call today if you need assistance with your mechanical car key or transponder car key.

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